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Ant Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Learn how ants live in colonies, communicate using pheromones, and defend themselves using bites and stings. This lesson covers ant anatomy, like the three parts of an ant's body and how ants have exoskeletons instead of internal skeletons.

Small but Mighty

Ants are tiny little creatures, but despite their size, they're pretty tough. For one thing, ants are incredibly strong for their size. The leaf-cutter ant can carry up to 50 times as much as it weighs. For perspective, if ants were people-sized and lifted 50 times their body weight, they'd be stronger than the strongest Olympic athletes.

Ants can also pack a punch when they want to fight. Some ants have poisonous stings that really hurt. For example, the bullet ant got its name because it has a sting that hurts as much as getting hit with a bullet. Or at least that's what people say after being stung.

Fire ants
Fire ants

Other ants don't sting, but they do bite. For example, fire ants are famous for their painful bites. They cause really itchy, painful bite marks like mosquito bites but worse.

How Ants Live

Ants are very social animals, and they live in big colonies. Each ant in the colony has a role, just like each person in a city. In a city, some people are construction workers, some people are librarians, some people are police officers, and other people do all kinds of other jobs. Ant colonies have 'jobs' like...

  • The queen or queens: Each colony has at least one queen, and some colonies have more than one. Queens are the only ants who have babies. Young queen ants may have wings.
  • Male ants: Male ants mate with the queen or queens in the colony. That's all they do. The male ants have wings.
  • Worker ants: Worker ants are all female, but they don't have babies. They do all the other jobs, like finding food and defending the colony. They do not have wings.

Remember from earlier that some ants can bite and sting? If you disturb an ant colony, a lot of defending worker ants might all come out to bite or sting you at the same time - ouch!

Ants build all kinds of different nests for their colonies to live in. For example, weaver ants build nests out of leaves. They 'weave' the leaves together: that's how they got their name.

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